Barbadian British author Malorie Blackman’s popular and critically acclaimed “Noughts + Crosses” series, which uses the setting of a fictional dystopia to explore racism in the present day, is coming to NBCUniversal’s recently launched streaming service, Peacock. The timely and thought-provoking six-episode drama, which is set to launch Friday, September 4, follows the love story of two star-crossed young adults who are divided by their skin color, in an alternate universe where the racial power structure is turned on its head.
In this world, Africa — or “Aprica” as it’s referred to in the novel — invaded Europe centuries ago, enslaving its people. In present-day London (known as “Albion”), slavery is an institution of the past, but Jim Crow-esque segregation laws maintain the power dynamic: A ruling class of Black “Crosses” control the country’s politics, wealth, and culture over an oppressed, impoverished underclass of white “Noughts,” who are at the brink of revolt. Against this backdrop of prejudice, distrust and rebellion, the forbidden love between Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan), a Nought, and Sephy Hadley (Masali Baduza), a Cross and the daughter of a prominent politician, unfolds.
The adaptation is based on the first book in the “Noughts and Crosses” series of novels, which has won the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award among other accolades. Author, Malorie Blackman OBE, was the Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015.
The Peacock series co-stars Helen Baxendale as Callum’s mother and Ian Hart as his father; Josh Dylan plays his older brother; Paterson Joseph plays Sephy’s father, the Home Secretary; Bonnie Mbuli plays her mother, and her Kike Brimah is her sister.
Shaun Dingwall, Jonathan Ajayi, Rakie Ayola, and rapper Stormzy round out the cast.
“Noughts + Crosses” was originally commissioned by the BBC in 2016 and premiered in the UK in March of this year. Peacock has now acquired U.S rights to the series, for an early fall premiere, against the backdrop of an America that’s still contending with a racial reckoning, following mass protests nationwide against the police killing of George Floyd. Given the provocative subject matter, it remains to be seen how the series handles the material, and whether it will make way for more nuanced conversations on the issues of race and racism.
Additionally, author Blackman hopes “Noughts & Crosses” is seen as part of a wider trend in Black stories being made for the screen.
“Now, there’s the realization that diverse stories do make money, like the films ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ — it would once have been much harder to get them off the ground,” she said. “There’s an audience desperate for new content and new voices, and I think a lot of people are waking up to that.”
“Noughts + Crosses” is produced by Mammoth Screen, Participant, and Jay Z’s Roc Nation. It was adapted by Lydia Adetunji, Nathaniel Price, and Rachel Le-Lahay, with direction from Julian Holmes and Koby Adom.
“Noughts and Crosses” premieres Friday, September 4 on Peacock. Check out the trailer below.